Our house was always exceptionally clean; I learned the definition of irony by finally understanding the humor behind the sign in our kitchen that read “Bless This Mess.” But somehow my mom perceived our home as a pig sty when a visit by her parents – especially her mom – was imminent.
At about T minus one week, Mom was cleaning things I didn’t know got dirty. The tops of bookcases that nobody was tall enough to see, the grate thingy at the bottom of the fridge, the fancy dishes in the hutch that somehow got dirty even though they were locked away and only used a couple of times per year. All got a thorough cleaning when Grandma was on her way.
As a grade-schooler, I was totally baffled by my mom’s turbo tidy behavior. As a teenager, I vowed to never be like her when I grew up. This commitment was endorsed by Mom herself. I remember her telling me through exasperation and sweat and the lingering scent of Endust and Lysol, “Please promise me you will never do this for me when you grow up. I would hate to think of putting you through this.”
Fast forward about 15 years. Rob and I are living far enough apart from my parents that a visit now requires a sleep-over. Mom and Dad are planning to arrive in about a week. And suddenly, our normally rather clean home is a disaster.
The blinds need to be dusted. The baseboards need to be cleaned. The linen closet needs to be reorganized. I’m in a panic and moving through our house like the Tasmanian Devil with a sponge and 409.
And then, as I am vacuuming out the silverware drawer…something I had never done before but was horrified to discover had crumbs and specs of other food bits ALL OVER IT…I suddenly realized I had become my mother. Despite my promise to myself and to her, I was mimicking the behavior we had both agreed was unnecessary for a Healthy and Loving Mother Daughter Relationship.
Instead of berating myself, though, I laughed. I laughed at myself, I laughed at my perceived need to clean a drawer full of clean silverware, and I laughed at the seemingly DNA-coded drive to Clean for Mom…regardless who Mom was.
Before even putting the vacuum away, I called my mom.
“Guess what I just found myself cleaning because you guys are coming to visit next week??”
Mom and I almost always laugh when we talk on the phone. That phone call was especially commiseratingly giggly.
I told her I now totally understood why she cleaned so much before Grandma came to visit. She told me it wasn’t at all necessary but she totally appreciated my efforts. And when she arrived a week later and was lingering in my kitchen, she nonchalantly took a peek at the silverware drawer. She oohed and ahhed with just the right blend of love, empathy, and teasing.
This story came flooding back to me recently. Rob and I enjoyed an early Thanksgiving with my parents this year. We still live far enough apart that a sleep-over is required. A little less than a week before our arrival, my mom texted me this picture with the caption “I’m getting ready!”
|Also note her t-shirt, a gift we gave to her a number of years ago.|
It reads, "Let me get this straight. My grandchild is a cat?"
SO MANY REASONS I ADORE THIS WOMAN!
This is already perhaps my favorite photo of my mom ever. It encapsulates a story, a history, a shared bond and experience. It oozes love and laughter and anticipation. It is the embodiment of the close, love-and-laugh-filled relationship I am blessed to have with my mom.
So very, very much to be thankful for.